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August 2012
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Euro NCAP has just released the test results of six new models, namely, the Audi A3, Ford B-MAX, Isuzu D-Max, Kia Cee’d, Renault Clio and Volvo V40. Here are the results in brief:

Audi A3 1.4 'Attraction', LHD:
The new Audi receives five stars. Although the passenger airbag can be disabled with an optionally fitted switch to allow a rearward-facing child restraint to be used in that seating position, there was no clear warning provided unlike in the other cars.

Ford B-MAX 1.5 diesel 'Trend', LHD: The mini MPV has received a commendable five stars. Instead of B-pillars, the car incorporates a structure into the doors to form a central post when the doors are shut. It also comes with the Active City Stop, an AEB system previously rewarded under Euro NCAP Advanced, which helps the driver achieve maximum braking effectiveness in an emergency situation.

Isuzu D-Max Crew Cab, 2.5 diesel, RHD: Received four star rating. This is an improvement on the previous model tested in 2008. The Isuzu received a score of 83% for adult occupant protection and improved protection for child occupants against a tougher 2012 regime. Though pedestrian safety has improved (51%) it still did not yet reach the 60% threshold required for five stars.

Kia Cee’d 1.4MPI LX, LHD:Receives 5 stars.

Renault Clio 1.0 base grade, LHD: Receives five stars.

Volvo V40: With five stars Volvo's new car is Euro NCAP’s all time top scorer in its segment.


It incorporates the World-first Pedestrian Airbag technology, fitted as standard on the entire V40 range. In case of a crash with a pedestrian, sensors detect the impact, release the bonnet and deploy the airbag in a split second.


Peter Dickson was back on form in Week 2 of the auditions, blasting us from the start but not nearly as loud as his 'competition' announcement, declaring that there was no question to answer this year to win a trip, money and various nick-nacks. Actually, I reckon that for many viewers, dialling the number required could be as difficult as answering correctly the stupid questions they had last year.

Anyway, back to the show. Who on earth is Rita? The mystery new judge this week has a new, or to most people, a first album to sell but quite how she managed to share the seats with Gary, Louie and Tulisa does remain to be explained.

We start with Rylan Clarke who spends a great deal of time on his appearance, an Essex guy with ash blonde hair and black roots. He wants to tsya in the music industry and puts down office jobs with a glorious comment to the effect that the highlighlight of office conversation would be 'Awright Maud?' which, for me, was one of the most memorable parts of the evening. He was a pretty useless singer but interesting and entertaining so we'll see him again.

Kye (what is it with the strange names this year?) was next. Nice tone and definitely some talent but whether the standing ovation was deserved for this quite good but not spectacularly good chap I am not so sure. Maybe it was more out of relief at that stage of the actual proceedings rather than as we view things.

Off to Manchester and Scary Spice is back and still looking quite odd. After a weak performance from someone called Chanelle we get Lucy from Sheffield. Now she is good. a great song that she's written herself, original and it worked very well for her even if some of the rhymes were strange. I love Lucy you can expect to see emblazoned on T shirts when we move on as she is more than safely through. It was also nice to hear a Florence & The Machine track played in the background to her success.



A load opf nutters follow which I hardly noticed and we end with James, a strange-looking guy with very red cheeks, lots of green and brown clothes and looking a bit out of proportion He gave a good performance of one of the Tulisa's songs which was well received and you can see Gary wanting to take him through to the live shows with Lucy and Kye.

And that was it. That seemed to fly by and all credit to the new producers for concentrating on the two or three that are worth watching and have some hope rather than the dreadful failures. The Xtra Factor also showed a nice couple of girls with guitars - Shackles - a possible contender for the groups category.

So here we go again. Either Peter Dickson was speaking more quietly than usual or the letters were smaller but this was a classier start than usual and Dermot O'Leary is in there at the start, along with Olly Murs in fine form, on video at least, with Caroline and the judges.

This year for Kelly Rowland read Nicole Scherzinger which could be confusing for American readers, especially when X Factor USA kicks off soon. Nicole steered the excellent and not immediately marketable Josh Krajick to 2nd place in America's version, (Simon winning, naturally, with Melanie Amaro) and if she can actually make her mind up and keep back the tears a bit while she's over here then she's likely to be an improvement on her predecessor. Gary seems a little less desperate to impress, Tulisa looks older but still very pretty and Louis has more hair in several shades of grey. He is so fortunate that Simon isn't on the panel.

The show was under way really quickly and someone calling himself Sheyi takes the stage with a big smile, great manners and obvious talent. A natural entertainer but for some reason he rasped away in a bad impression of Louis Armstrong in tight trousers which no-one in their right minds would expect to get through. I'm convinced that this was some kind of set up - maybe they didn't have anyone amusing and reasonable for the first act so got this guy to act up for a few grand. Two reasons: one, when he dropped out of the rasping growl voice for the intermittent 'yay' or 'hey' you heard a decent and absolutely in tune voice, the sort you'd expect from someone like him and, two, my daughter tells me that he's Deputy Head Boy at Royal Latin School in Buckingham, or was last year, and that's neither his name nor his style. She also rather doubted that he worked at Nandos in London - Milton Keyenes, maybe - or came from Camden. Camden does sound cooler than Buchingham, though.

We moved on and someone with a name like Feckton sings Freedom pretty well, Rick's a fireman with red blotches and gets through as does Tasha with a nice tone and a first glimpse of some real talent. Then comes Jahmene Douglas. You think he's going to be the joke act and whine a lot or something. He has a nervous laugh at the end of each short sentence and long ones seem to be beyond him. The shiny grey suit is worrying too, looking like something someone bought for him and poured him into before feeding him up.

Then the guy sings. At Last is a pretty smart song at the best of times and he is just brilliant. Every note absolutely spot on, a totally natural singer. Outstanding voice but I don't know - despite all the raves from everyone there - how will he fare as the stages progress and can we really, honestly, imagine this chap dancing to an Abba song or whatever they get the poor contestants to do on the Live Shows? Writing this rather later than I should did give me the befit of a peek at some odds and the bookies have him as an early favourite so I guess he's safely through for a while yet.

We get a better chunk of Peter Dickson now with some competition that doesn't even have a question to answer. Eh?

Zoe does a Pink tribute not particularly well, despite a build up that made us think she'd be a good act. There's some nasty behaviour as she storms off and you do have to wonder whether the return of Brian Fieldman to direct the shows has had an influence on upping the drama.

Off to Manchester next and we get Scary Spice Mel B in various shades of strange orange being particularly grumpy with almost everyone. To be fair, they all deserved it and it was quite refreshing to see a judge telling acts that they weren't much good instead of pussy-footing around as most of the others have tended to do for fear of breaking some Single Equality Act regulation.

The one that didn't get the grumps was Ella Henderson who sang one of her own compositions. Now that's a brave move anyway but both her writing and her singing are damn good. Perhaps she will find herself aligned with Adele too much and it is to be hoped that she can pull herself away from that overdone genre. One class act and another tip for the top.

These are, though, very early days. It is, thank heavens, a long time 'til Christmas and the Final! I suspect there will be more contenders than the two everyone is talking about this week.

Some great news for all Beemer fans here in the UK. BMW plans to sell off most of their Olympic fleet cars. This includes the 320d and 700 520d EfficientDynamics as well as the new 1 Series ActiveE electric vehicles, MINI E (electric vehicle) and 5 Series ActiveHybrids.

The great news is that there are more cars then their dealers here in the UK can distribute and more than 50% might go up for auction, where some lucky fellow might be able to get them at a bargain (or maybe not). No cofirmation yet as these are all rumours.


It's about time to upgrade my old car for a new one and a Beemer would be ideal. Not sure whether I can afford the Olympic cars even though they are used. I would love to try out the 1 Series ActiveE electric vehicles or Minie Es.

An electric car is an option I am considering for my daily commute to work as we have free recharging points in our car park. I was really jealous when I learnt that several bloggers in Malaysia had been given Nissan Leaf cars to review for a few weeks. That's another car I would love to try out.

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